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Gemma Arterton in Byzantium

Byzantium

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 26 November Vlad the Impaler becomes ruler of Wallachia for third time, 1476 On this day in 1476, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia became ruler of Wallachia for the third time. His father, Vlad II, had become a member of the chivalric Order of the Dragon (Drache in German, Dracul in Romanian) in 1431. As the son, Vlad III carried the patronymic Dracula, son of Dracul (he signed himself Wladislaus Dragwlya). Vlad III spent a good deal of his life asserting his claim on Wallachia. He was first installed as a ruler by the Ottomans – Vlad III had been brought … Read more
Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in The Heat

25 November 2013-11-25

Out in the UK this Week The Heat (Fox, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) There aren’t many female buddy-cop comedies. This one, directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), recalls the Lethal Weapon antics of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and stars Sandra Bullock as the one trying to play it by the book, and Melissa McCarthy as the out and out slob prepared to take any risk because, hell, law and order is a dirty old business. Suit pants versus sweat pants, basically, with a plot that’s immaterial – it has something to do with guns and drugs, as per – but it’s just enough to bus the girls from one amusing set piece to the next, … Read more
A flashback sequence from Mishima

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 25 November Yukio Mishima commits seppuku, 1970 On this day in 1970, the Japanese writer/actor/director Yukio Mishima disembowelled himself ritualistically, after having tried and failed to persuade troops at the Ichigaya barracks to launch a coup d’état to reinstate the Emperor’s supreme power. Shortly afterwards, as pre-arranged, his assistant attempted to decapitate him. When this failed, another assistant succeeded in severing Mishima’s head, then performed the same service for the first assistant, who had by now also disembowelled himself. Mishima’s real name was Kimitake Hiraoka and his act brought to a conclusion a life that had been devoted to the idea … Read more
Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 24 November Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species, 1859 On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (to give it its full title). Building on work by Joseph Hooker, Robert Chambers and others, Darwin rushed into print a book he had been mulling over for two decades, because he knew that the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had, quite independently, come up with theories remarkably similar to his own. Written for the layman, the book set out Darwin’s observations … Read more
Artwork for the original poster of The Raven

The Raven

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 23 November Boris Karloff born, 1887 On this day in 1887, the great horror actor Boris Karloff was born. Disappointingly, his birth name was William Henry Pratt and he wasn’t born in some Carpathian cave but in the inner suburb of Lewisham, South London. A well educated young man with a lisp and a stutter, he dropped out while training to become a functionary of the British Empire and instead took to farm labouring before becoming an actor. He took the name Boris Karloff while in travelling repertory theatre in Canada, and after arriving in Hollywood he played a number of … Read more
Takahiro Nishijima in Love Exposure

Love Exposure

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 22 November Premiere of Ravel’s Bolero, 1928 On this day in 1928, Ravel’s Bolero made its debut at the Paris Opera. Ravel was originally going to call the work Fandango but changed his mind to Bolero, keeping his original intention – which he almost apologetically in later years would describe as “orchestral tissue without music… there are no contrasts and practically no invention except the plan and the manner of execution.” Bolero is a long rhythmic crescendo, starting out with a simple rat-tatta-ta-tat-tatta-ta-tattata-tattata-tat snare drum, a sinuous melody over the top, at first with just a few members of the orchestra … Read more
Police blindfold looters before shooting them in The War Game

The War Game

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 21 November Einstein publishes his mass/energy equation, 1905 On this day in 1905, his annus mirabilis, Albert Einstein published a paper in the Annalen Der Physik (Annals of Physics). Together with his earlier three papers that year, on Photoelectric Effect, Brownian motion and Special Relativity, his 1905 papers laid the foundation of modern physics. The November paper’s title was Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content? In it Einstein suggested that mass and energy were the same thing, expressing the relationship between the two thus: “If a body gives off the energy in the form of radiation, … Read more
Sharon Stone and Demi Moore in Bobby

Bobby

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 20 November Robert Kennedy born, 1925 On this day in 1925, Robert Kennedy was born. The seventh child and third son of Joseph Kennedy Sr – who had made a fortune out of brokering deals with Hollywood studios and then importing whisky into post-Prohibition America – Robert was, like his father, not particularly academic but, having been gifted a good education by his socially and politically ambitious father, made it to Harvard, then went on to law school. Thanks to the manoeuvring of his father, Robert rose quickly, working first at the US Department of Justice, then for scourge-of-the-communists Joe McCarthy, … Read more
Naomi Watts and Ed Norton in The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 19 November World Toilet Day Since 2001, 19 November has been World Toilet Day, as decreed by the World Toilet Organization. Considering that certain social groupings in the English-speaking world can barely bring themselves to use the word “toilet” in its most common sense, preferring “lavatory”, “loo” “bathroom” “restroom” or whatever, World Toilet Day’s 2012 slogan, “I give a shit, do you?” is your proverbial breath of fresh, if faintly scented, air. Kicking into limbo the argument that “toilet” is itself a euphemism – that way madness lies – World Toilet Day has a very simple agenda: to eliminate the taboo … Read more
Timothy Spall as The Mikado in Topsy-Turvy

Topsy-Turvy

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 18 November WS Gilbert born, 1836 On this day in 1936, William Schwenk Gilbert, writer and librettist, was born on the Strand, London, a short distance from the Savoy Theatre, where he would have the greatest triumphs of his career with collaborator Arthur Sullivan. After his parents’ marriage collapsed, Gilbert travelled extensively through Europe as a child. He spoke good French when he returned to England to attend Great Ealing School, “the best private school in England”. As a young man he joined the Civil Service,joined the part-time army the Militia, then became a barrister, wrote theatre reviews, poems, plays and … Read more
Eric Bana as Chopper Read in Chopper

Chopper

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 17 November Chopper Read born, 1954 On this day in 1954, Mark Brandon Read was born, in Melbourne, Australia. The son of an army father and a Seventh-day Adventist mother, he spent the first five years of his life in children’s homes before returning home, where he was often beaten by his father. A street fighter already as a teenager, he began his criminal career by robbing drug dealers, then went on to kidnap and torture members of the criminal underworld, in order to extort money out of them. He gained a reputation for brutality – bolt-cutting (hence the “Chopper” nickname) … Read more
Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine

18 November 2013-11-18

Out in the UK This Week The Wolverine (Fox, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) The X-Men series has been lacklustre, with too many characters chasing too little plot (X-Men First Class being the exception). But The Wolverine bucks that trend thanks to its tight focus on Hugh Jackman as the wolfman with the salon-sational nails and its decision to just chuck us straight into the plot, just like the comic books do. Japan is the focus, a grungy dirty Japan, where bearded, trashed Wolverine is just trying to forget all that superhero stuff and get on with a normal life. But, as is the way with these things, his past comes back to get him, … Read more

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